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Determining cost per call for the transportation industry

Cost per call is calculated in a number of different ways, says Lori Bocklund. Read more on determining cost per call in this expert tip.

I work for a transportation consulting company and we are interested in learning the cost per call for "where is my package?" customer service inquiries. Are there any metrics on this? We are trying to determine how shipment visibility reduces "where's my order?" calls; how to measure the cost of these calls; what the range of time is that a customer will call after a package has shipped; and what percentage of all calls are "where's my order?" calls.
Cost per call is calculated in a number of different ways depending on allocated costs, information available, and other factors. There is no one way to calculate cost per call. Some companies will just divide loaded costs for the call center by call volumes. Getting into more detailed calculations for a specific contact requires pro-rated calculations based on handle times and volume distributions. The key is to determine how best to calculate cost per call in your environment based on the information and tools available, then consistently monitor it and make comparisons.

Shipment visibility can reduce, "where's my order?" calls. Visibility of shipment information allows the customer to check on the order without having to contact the call center. It also provides a proactive touch point to the customer "pushing" information to them. Knowing that the supplier or vendor knows where the item is supersedes a call to the center. This can be done in number of ways, but is most frequently seen in Web and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) applications where the customer enters a tracking or order number, or receives proactive emails with the status.

Unfortunately, there is no standard for the cost of, "where's my order?" calls. Each business within each industry is driven by their own unique cost of doing business, number of phone calls, and many other factors that impact how often people have to call and ask that question. In order to get the cost of these calls, you would first need to identify all costs directly and indirectly (labor, administration, communication and any allocated costs) that are associated with all calls. By taking the total cost and dividing it by the amount of total seconds of all calls you will end up with a cost per second that can be applied to the total number of seconds of "where's my order?" calls. This will allow you to determine, "what if I shorten my order status calls?" Or, simply take the total charges for order status calls and divide by the number of calls to reach your current cost per call.

It is difficult to gauge the range of time after the package has shipped when calls will come in. The amount of time varies greatly depending upon the circumstances. Re-contact by a customer depends greatly upon product, price, weather, time of year, geographic location, shipping method, processes and other factors. A customer may call immediately if a high-cost item, like an electronic component, has not arrived quickly, whereas they may be more tolerant for late arrival of other purchases. Setting and communicating realistic delivery expectations can help mitigate or lessen the amount of calls.

Determing the percentage of, "where's my order?" calls versus other types of calls has many factors and contributing elements. For example, a catalog company will receive a higher percentage of these calls during the holiday or buying season.

You might want to look at Prosci's Call Center Measurements Toolkit at the Call Center Learning Center for some suggested ways to calculate cost per call and other metrics.

This was last published in September 2006

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